Tampa, Fla. • BYU suffered a case of déjà vu Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. Just like at Toledo, the Cougars lost their starting quarterback late in the game.
Jaren Hall, who made history Saturday as the first African American player to start at quarterback for BYU, walked off the field after a hard tackle. Baylor Romney entered the game as his replacement.
Romney swiftly moved the offense down the field, but had his pass broken up on a fourth-and-18 situation on the Bulls’ 20-yard line.
The Cougars (2-3) suffered their third straight loss, 27-23.
“It hurts,” running back Lopini Katoa said. “Everybody's hurting, and it should hurt because we know we're a great team.”
BYU started the game with a delay of game penalty and lost 15 yards on its first play from scrimmage, but Hall was able to get the offense out of the hole with a couple of passes for first downs. However, USF (3-3) seemed to have a handle on Hall early on, sacking the mission-returned freshman four times in the first quarter.
Hall and the offense adjusted to lead the Cougars to a 13-0 lead in the second quarter.
The starting quarterback finished the game with 148 yards on 15-of-23 passing and led the ground game with 83 rushing yards on 16 carries and one touchdown.
Coach Kalani Sitake said they’re going to review film to evaluate Hall’s performance — and take a better look at those sacks — but overall was pleased with his performance.
“When you have a guy that can run like that, he creates a lot of plays,” “That’s what he did — he created some big-time plays in scramble. I thought he ran the ball really well. For the most part, made good decisions.”
Third-down conversions have been a topic of discussion with BYU all season long. Against the Bulls, the Cougars managed a 55% third-down conversion rate.
On their third to last drive, the Cougars were unable to convert on third-and-7 on the USF 22-yard line and lost Hall for the remainder of the game in the process. Instead, the Bulls scored on the ensuing drive for the go-ahead score and took the lead for the first time in the game.
BYU got into the red zone, but had to settle on three field goals instead of touchdowns and missed a fourth attempt.
You’re glad you got points on the board, but you want a touchdown,” offensive lineman James Empsey said. “You want 7, not 3. That’s kind of just the bottom line, you have to find a way to get in the end zone if you want to be able to put a game out of reach.”
BYU ended with more total yards (439-245) and prevented USF from a first down until midway through the second quarter. The Bulls scored on that drive, but the Cougars’ third field goal made the score 16-7 at halftime.
After that, USF threatened to take the lead throughout the second half, until they were able to on Jordan Cronkrite’s 3-yard rush.
This was the third trip back east for the Cougars, and second in three weeks. It is also the third straight year BYU has dropped the game directly following a bye week.
The Cougars return to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Oct. 19, when BYU hosts Boise State in their homecoming game at 8:15 p.m.
“It’s definitely going to be nice to play at home, to work to get a win in front of our home crowd,” Katoa said. “Also, with it being Boise State, that’s going to be a good challenge for us — and one that we love to have, just because of our history with them. I think it’s the perfect game to follow up on this game and I’m excited to play next week at home.”